Are upsets contagious? It seemed for a long time on Friday that Djokovic and Federer had caught the upset virus that plagued Rafael Nadal on Thursday. Federer and Djokovic survived and moved in to the the third round of Wimbledon but not without precarious moments.
Brad Gilbert made an interesting comment that upsets can become contagious. I would agree if a top player entertains the idea of being upset and lets it gain energy. Right around the time of Gilbert's comments Djokovic lost the first set to a dangerous net rusher on grass, Radek Stepanek. Djokovic righted the ship immediately in the second set and went on to play some outstanding tennis to win in four sets. After the match Djokovic was asked if he was thinking about how Nadal was upset. He said he was not, but you have to imagine it was hard to not think "this can't be happening to me".
In the evening Roger Federer fell down two sets to Julien Benneteau. In the third set Fed was within two points of losing the match at two different times . Federer stayed calm and found his way through a tight third set. After the third Roger was able to get on top of Benneteau early in the fourth and fifth sets and dominate on the way to victory.
Both Djokovic and Federer were able to counteract their opponent's efforts by taking control of the match, unlike Nadal who was being pushed back off the court by Lukas Rosol's power. Federer was likely feeling pressure because he has to be thinking about how many chances he has left to win Wimbledon. This is a great opportunity for him this year. He won't have to play Nadal.
Federer remained composed and continued to attack despite being within two points of losing the match. He looked calm and not flustered whereas Nadal was clearly showing the frustration. In support of Rafa, Benneteau was not hitting winners all over the court with the first swing like Rosol. Fed knew he could gain control of the match and thus it was easier for him to remain positive and focused. While I watched the match I noticed the Federer did not give Benneteau any facial expression or bad body language to let him know that he was frustrated. Roger did a great job of staying neutral in his body language.
Djokovic and Federer avoided the upset bug on Friday. I expect them to have an easier go of it in the fourth round and for them to face off in an epic semi-final. Then again maybe the upset bug will get them in the next two rounds. If one of them begins to dwell on or visualize the chances of being upset it can come true. It will be crucial for Djokovic and Federer to stay focused on playing their game and not allow the thoughts of losing to creep in and take hold of their mind. These guys are masters of the mental game so it will take an amazing effort like Tsonga's comeback in last year's Wimbledon to put doubt in to their minds.